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首页 » 经典英文小说 » The Mercer Boys on a Treasure Hunt » CHAPTER XIX AN OLD FRIEND JOINS THE PARTY
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The party on the hill was surprised at the action of the mestizo as he fairly pounced upon his rifle. But before he could even lift it a clear-cut voice spoke out back of them.

“Keep your hands off of that gun, or I’ll drill a few holes into you!”

They turned, to find back of them a little short man in a blue uniform of a sailor, who had crept up on them quietly from the rear. He held a rifle in his hand and turned it unwaveringly toward the members of the watching group.

“What is the meaning of this?” demanded the professor, after a second of silence.

“No meaning at all,” chuckled the man, whose uniform proclaimed him a mate on a sailing ship. “You fellows march down the hill until my captain looks you over.”

“Who are you to tell us to march down the hill?” snapped Ned. “This is a free country, in case you don’t know it.”

“I know it,” chuckled the mate. “But this here gun of mine don’t know nothing about it! I’ve tried my best to teach the blooming thing, but it’s just naturally ignorant!”

“Who are you?” Don asked.

“Go on down the hill!” commanded the mate, suddenly changing his tone. “The captain will answer all questions.”

There was nothing to do but to obey, so, in silence the boys and the older man walked down the hill, leading their mounts. The crowd below saw them coming and looked on with marked interest. The captain of the attackers strode to the front. He was a tall old man with a white beard and snow white hair, and at sight of him Don caught his breath.

“What have you here, Harvey?” the captain asked.

“This bunch was lying on their tummies and looking over the hill at you,” answered the mate, a twinkle in his eyes.

“Yes, we were, Captain Blow,” said Don, boldly. “How are you, sir?”

Captain Blow, their old friend from Mystery Island, started at hearing his name, and looked closely at Don’s smiling face. He had been their staunch friend at the time they made their summer cruise and captured the marine bandits. Recognition dawned on him and he joyously seized the boy’s hands.

“Why, by jumping Tunket, if it isn’t Don Mercer!” he roared heartily. “What in the name of Goshen are you doing out here, boy?”

Don explained briefly that he was staying with the Scotts at their ranch and then looked around at the sullen captives. “What is all this, Captain Blow?” he asked.

“These fellows are one fine bunch of prison birds who are soon going in their cage!” retorted the captain vigorously. “I’m running a schooner out here, in the carrying trade now, and this Captain Jake Ryan run off with two of my men. Last night I chased them but lost ’em in the storm. Early this morning I saw the wreck and sent my mate there ashore to locate them. When he gave me the signal, from the hill back of where you were looking, we came ashore. He saw you fellows and thought you were part of the enemy.”

Don then introduced the Scotts and told the captain of their search for Jim and Terry. The captain was deeply interested.

“These fellows are part of Sackett’s gang,” he said. “Maybe they know something.” He turned to the scowling Ryan. “Did you have anything to do with two boys?” he asked.

“No!” said Ryan, promptly.

But one of the men who had been liberated by the coming of Captain Blow spoke up quickly. “Yes he did, Captain Blow! Those two boys came aboard yesterday just before the storm, down at the old tannery. And they are still aboard the wreck!”

“How do you know they weren’t swept overboard?” shouted Jake Ryan.

“You know how I know, you scoundrel!” snapped the sailor, shaking his fist in Ryan’s face. “When you stampeded for the lifeboat I saw those two boys duck down behind some canvas and I told you to put back and make ’em come off in the lifeboat, but you was so scared you wouldn’t go back!”

“It’s a lie,” Ryan retorted.

“No it isn’t. Those boys are still on the ship,” said the sailor.

“I guess they decided to stay on the schooner and keep out of the hands of these fellows,” decided Captain Blow. “Too bad they didn’t come right along, and we would have them now. But we’ll probably find them out there.”

“That is once Jim and Terry figured their move wrong,” grinned Don, greatly relieved at the news concerning his chums.

“Yes, but they thought they were doing the correct thing,” put in the professor. “Now, what do you propose to do with these men, Captain Blow?”

Blow turned to his mate. “Harvey, you and the men march these fellows back to the boats and take ’em to the schooner. I’m going out to the wreck with these men and I’ll be back to the ship later. Don’t let one of these rats escape, and we’ll take them to prison.”

“Aye, aye, sir!” replied Harvey. The crew hustled the captives away over the top of the hill and then Captain Blow turned to the party of friends.

“Now we’ll go out and look that wreck over,” he announced. The boat in which the crew of the Galloway had reached shore was still lying upon the sand, and they all climbed in and pushed off, the old captain, Ned and Don taking the oars. It was the first time that the mestizo had ever been in a boat and he sat gingerly in the bow, holding himself stiffly.

“When did you leave Mystery Island, Captain Blow?” asked Don, as they rowed out to the wreck.

“Early in the spring,” replied the old captain. “When I saw you last I told you that Mystery Island would soon be a regular summer colony, now that the old house and bandits are gone, and sure enough, that is what happened. Got so full of young men with white pants and slicked down hair and young ladies with tootin’ roadsters that my polly and me didn’t have any peace at all. So I came west, got a nice schooner, and am now running between here and Mexico, picking up anything I can get, mostly fruit. I didn’t have any trouble, although I had heard plenty about this Sackett, until a few days ago when this Ryan ran off with two of my men. Kidnapped them in some eating house in San Francisco and I went right after them.”

“I see,” nodded Don. “So Bella, the parrot, is still living?”

“Oh, yup! She’s still sayin’ ‘Bella is a good girl.’ Probably she’ll still be saying that after I’m dead and gone.”

They had now approached the wreck and the captain made fast the painter of the lifeboat. Climbing aboard was somewhat of a task, as the deck sloped dangerously, but by dint of clinging to every support available they managed to do so. But a hasty survey of the deck revealed that the two boys were not on board.

“Maybe they are in the hold,” suggested Ned.

“I doubt that,” replied Captain Blow. “That hold must be full of water. You see, these fellows crowded on all canvas to get away from me and they ran in too close to shore, with the result that they jammed hard and fast aground. The bottom must be stove in plenty and full of water, and the only reason they didn’t sink is because they are sort of lying on a shelf. However, we’ll give a look down the companionway.”

A look down into the hold of the wrecked schooner proved that Captain Blow was right in his surmises. The hold was filled with water and it was manifestly impossible for anyone to have gone down there. Don was worried.

“You don’t suppose they were swept overboard, do you?” he asked, anxiously.

“No,” said the captain promptly. “I don’t. My sailor says they ducked down behind something to keep hidden probably with the idea of escaping all by themselves. My idea is that they grabbed a spar or two, swam to shore, and got away that way. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they was even now heading up the shore toward your ranch, professor.”

“I believe you are right, Captain,” replied the professor. “They certainly wouldn’t stay here when there was no necessity for it, and they probably swam ashore, as you say. I think, therefore, that we should go ashore and follow up the coast, in the hope of overtaking them.”

“We ought to overtake them,” said Ned. “We are mounted and they aren’t. No use in wasting any more time around here, is there?”

“No,” Captain Blow answered, slipping down the deck. “Let’s go back.”

On the way to the shore the professor told the captain about the treasure hunt and he was tremendously interested. Once on shore he spoke about going back to his boat.

“I wish you the best of luck,” he told Don. “By thunder mighty! I wouldn’t mind going with you!”

“Why don’t you?” asked Don, quickly. “Can’t your mate sail with these men to the city and stop for you on the return trip? I feel sure that the rest of us would be glad to have you.”

“We surely would!” said Ned and his father, together.

“Why, yes, I guess that would do,” said the captain slowly. “I’d sure like to go along. Will you give me time to go out and tell Harvey what to do?”

They assented and the captain signalled for a boat, which took him off to his schooner. He was gone for about fifteen minutes, and when he came back he had a blanket and some supplies. He joined them and the boat put off once again for the schooner.

“Harvey is in complete charge,” he announced. “He’ll stop for me at Quito on the way back. I’m ready to go now.”

The mestizo surrendered his horse to the captain, who protested vigorously, but the mestizo was a far better hand at trotting along than the old salt, so they arranged to share the horse, and when it was cooler, to ride it double. Feeling that their best plan was to push on back to the ranch they started off, leaving the deserted wreck far behind them.


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